San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival is entering its seventeenth year of featuring established and up-and-coming indie acts, all across The City by the Bay in an early start to the 2009 festival season. Having previously broken now-big-names like The White Stripes, Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins, and Spoon, this year Noise Pop is focusing more on solo artists, from the already acclaimed like Bob Mould (also of Sugar, Hüsker Dü), Stephen Malkmus (also of Pavement, Jicks), A.C. Newman (also of The New Pornographers), Rob Crow (also of Pinback, Goblin Cock), Josh Ritter, and John Darnielle (Mountain Goats) to the burgeoning like Annie Clark (St. Vincent, also of Polyphonic Spree), Bradford Cox (Deerhunter, Atlas Sound), Thao Nguyen, Matt Costa, A.A. Bondy, and Anthony & The Johnsons. But Noise Pop is also showing off homegrown groups like Scissors For Lefty, Papercuts, and From Monument to Masses, not to mention building indie ensembles such as Ra Ra Riot, Les Savy Fav, French Kicks, No Age, The Morning Benders, Portugal. The Man, and The Broken West.
Note: Held not at one festival park but in venues across the city, like Austin’s SXSW or New York’s CMJ (QRO recap), here’s our map of where it’s at in The City That Knows How:
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24th:
Deerhunter, with Lifolee @ Mezzanine, 8:30 PM
No one was more prolific last year than Deerhunter’s singer/guitarist Bradford Cox (QRO live review), who not only put out the well-received Microcastle (QRO review), but also included a second disc of all-original bonus material, Weird Era Cont. (QRO review) – and oh, yeah, released a solo record (as Atlas Sound), Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (QRO review) that beat ‘em both. Known for electric shows whether as the Sound (QRO live review) or with Deerhunter (QRO live review), Cox & Deerhunter (QRO photos outdoors) will be as prolific with festivals this year (including Florida’s Harvest of Hope – QRO festival preview), kicking off Noise Pop with a free show (but you gotta RSVP…).
Anthony & The Johnsons, with Billy Basinki @ Nob Hill Masonic Center, 8:00 PM
The festival’s first paid show is a strange way with unique soul singer Anthony & The Johnsons. He/they broke through in 2005 with sophomore LP, I Am a Bird Now, winning Britain’s prestigious Mercury Prize (like Canada’s Polaris Prize, but people in America actually care), and now follows up with this year’s The Crying Light and a tour that has taken his straddling of avant-classical & blues to such haunts as The Apollo Theatre and Carnegie Hall.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25th:
The Aimless Never Miss, with Sleepover Disaster & Evacuee @ Benders, 5:00 PM
Noise Pop will be holding free shows at Benders in the late afternoon/early evening to kick off the day’s events, featuring local acts in the ‘Noise Pop Happy Hour’.
The Mountain Goats (solo), with Papercuts @ Swedish American Music Hall, 6:30 PM
John Darnielle has been a prolific producer for almost two decades now under The Mountain Goats (QRO photos) moniker (the last five years at fellow singer/songwriter John Vanderslice’s local studio, Tiny Telephone), including last year’s Heretic Pride (QRO review). Playing solo, expect his unique voice and approach to be heightened. Opening S.F. natives Papercuts bring something more to their sixties strum on 2007’s Can’t Go Back (QRO review).
Stephen Malkmus, with Kelley Stoltz, Peggy Honeywell & Goh Nakamura @ Great American Music Hall, 7:00 PM
This indie-rock icon has been putting out solid record after solid record since the break-up of the seminal Pavement (QRO album re-release review), most recently with Real Emotional Trash (QRO review). With the full-fledged support of The Jicks, ‘S.M.’ has been playing sold-out shows across the country (QRO live review), not to mention rocking the festival circuit (QRO photos from Siren Festival 2008). The music has tended more towards the jam-band these days (and they don’t play Pavement songs – QRO live review), but Stephen Malkmus hasn’t forgotten where he’s come from, “Church On White”…
Matt Costa, with An Horse, Robert Francis & Two Sheds @ Slim’s, 7:00 PM
For the slightly younger set, there’s skateboarder-turned-singer/songwriter Matt Costa. The California native brought an infectious sound to his sophomore LP, Unfamiliar Faces (QRO review), which only gets more so live (QRO live review).
Sleepy Sun, with Lumerians, True Widow & Kings and Queens @ Bottom of the Hill, 7:00 PM
Critical praise has been building for locals Sleepy Sun in their hometown since last year’s Embrace, and now their re-wave psychedelica reaches for higher ground.
French Kicks, with The Broken West, Here Here & The Don’ts @ The Independent, 7:30 PM
New York’s French Kicks have been around for over a decade now, but their high, airy sound still feels pretty fresh, such as with their latest, last year’s Swimming (QRO review). Californian opener The Broken West haven’t been at it as long (even taking into account their forced change of name from The Brokedown), but last year’s Now Or Heaven (QRO review) took the sunny sixties pop of 2007’s debut LP I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On (QRO review), and built it bigger and better, something reflected in their live show, which has grown (QRO live review from 2007) as well (QRO photos from CMJ festival 2008).
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26th:
Scissors For Lefty, with Picture Atlantic & Man/Miracle @ Benders, 5:00 PM
One of the seemingly ever-growing set of acts with pairs of brothers (see The National – QRO live review – or The Spinto Band – QRO album review), natives Scissors For Lefty have been building to the point where they should really be playing something bigger at Noise Pop than a free Happy Hour early show.
Thao Nguyen, with David Dondero, Sean Smith & Colossal Yes @ Swedish American Music Hall, 6:30 PM
Thao Nguyen (QRO interview) broke through just about a year ago with We Brave Bee Stings and All (QRO review) and its fun, charming folk-rock. Her live shows are, if anything, more engaging (QRO live review), whether in a college student center (QRO photos) or a massive converted warehouse (QRO photos). Opener David Dondero goes more Midwestern in his folk-rock than the Virginia-born, but currently San Fran-living Thao.
Josh Ritter (solo w/ string quartet), with Laura Gibson, Dave Smallen & Tiny Television @ Great American Music Hall, 7:00 PM
Unlike many of the other singer/songwriters at Noise Pop, Josh Ritter has always flourished solo, but at this festival he’ll be joined by a string quartet. What that will do to his blend of folk and rock genres, most recently heard on 2007’s The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (QRO review), is unknown, but should be interesting.
Martha Wainwright, with A.A. Bondy, Ryan Auffenberg & Karina Denike @ Slim’s, 7:00 PM
From the musical family that brought you Loudon Wainwright III (father – also was the dad on the short-lived Undeclared, for some reason), Kate McGarrigle (mother), and Rufus Wainwright (brother), Martha Wainwright’s country-folk has proved a hit all on its own, from festival appearances to last year’s I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too. Opener A.A. Bondy (QRO photos) has been building steady with his own folk rock, in collaboration with The Felice Brothers (QRO photos with The Felice Brothers), and on his own (QRO photos opening for Felice Brothers) with American Hearts.
Thee Oh Sees, with Tyvek, Unnatural Helpers & The Fresh and Onlys @ Café Du Nord, 8:00 PM
Hailing from The O.C. (the name was original ‘Orange County Sound’, then ‘OCS’, then – well, you get the idea), John Dwyer formed Thee Oh Sees to put out his experimental, instrumental home recordings, but over seven records has morphed into a full band.
From Monument to Masses, with Crime In Choir & Built For the Sea @ Bottom of the Hill, 8:00 PM
Considering that they’re from San Francisco and New York, it’s no surprise that From Monument to Masses is a politically charged band (their name itself is a rejection of the ‘Great Man Theory’ of history). But the trio combine that with Middle American post-rock, coming up on their fourth release in March, On Little Known Frequencies.
Kool Keith: Dr. Octagon vs. Dr. Dooom & Mike Relm, with Crown City Rockers & Kutmasta Kurt @ Mezzanine, 8:00 PM
The Bronx’s Kool Keith has rapped under a variety of further pseudonyms, with the best known being Dr. Octagon and Dr. Dooom, most recently with sequel records The Return of Dr. Octagon and Dr. Dooom 2 – and now the twin sides face off against each other. San Fran’s own mash-up artist, Mike Relm, has turned tables for Money Mark (QRO album review), Del tha Funky Homosapien (QRO photos) – even Blue Man Group…
Goblin Cock, with Warship, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band & Kowloon Walled City @ The Rickshaw Stop, 8:30 PM
Rob Crow (QRO live review) has a lot of interests, both his own solo material (QRO album review), his work in his main band, Pinback (QRO album review), and his doom/death metal band, Goblin Cock, which just released their sophomore LP, Come With Me If You Want To Live. With lyrics drawn from such sources as Sesame Street, and a live show that both mocks metal (QRO live review) and plays metal, ‘G.C.’ still ain’t your run-of-the-mill heavy-duty act.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27th:
Maus Haus, with Sugar and Gold & Tempo No Tempo @ Benders, 5:00 PM
The free Noise Pop Happy Hour continues with beat-hop influenced locals.
St. Vincent, with Cryptacize, Rafter & That Ghost @ Great American Music Hall, 7:00 PM
The one-and-only Annie Clark (QRO interview) serenades her home stage of Texas. After making 2007 her break-out year, both as part of The Polyphonic Spree on The Fragile Army (QRO review) and with her own debut as St. Vincent, Marry Me (QRO review), Clark looks to make 2008 even better. She followed that up with an even-better year last year, gracing festivals (QRO photos from Fun Fun Fun Fest 2008), charming and surprising crowds with winning humor live (QRO live review), and bringing a stable of new songs (QRO live review, outside & new).
The Morning Benders & The Submarines, with The Mumlers & Rademacher @ Slim’s, 7:00 PM
From right over in Berkeley comes The Morning Benders (QRO photos), and while they draw from the sixties, it’s not the Deadhead hippie jams but sunnier strums, inflected with the right amount of indie (QRO live review) – and they’ve got a new EP, A Grain of Salt, out that week. Co-headliner The Submarines (QRO photos) comes from SoCal, but the duo is, if anything, brighter – so bright that their music brought their broken-up relationship back together, and more importantly, got in the ads for the iPhone 3G…
Ra Ra Riot, with Cut Off Your Hands, Telekinesis & The Hooks @ The Independent, 7:30 PM
Oh, how they’ve grown! In the less than two years since their self-titled EP (QRO review) and the death of singer/drummer John Pike, this Nor’easter collective has not only rebounded but exploded, embracing life even more on last year’s excellent The Rhumb Line (QRO review) than early single “Dying Is Fine” (QRO video) could have predicted. Ra Ra Riot’s live show (QRO live review) sees everyone but the drummer running around on stage like kids on candy, but they’re also relative road ‘veterans’, from near-immediately after Pike’s death (QRO live review) to more recent festivals (QRO photos at Siren Festival 2008), including Florida’s upcoming Harvest of Hope (QRO festival preview). They also play “every song we know”, from early numbers like “Can You Tell?” (QRO video) to recent Rhumb single “Ghost Under Rocks” (QRO video) and the Pike-penned “St. Peter’s Day Festival” (QRO video). However, do watch for singer Wesley Miles (QRO interview) jumping band members and even into the crowd (QRO photo) – as well as a tight pack of males in front of everyone’s indie-rock crush, Alexandra Lawn (QRO photos)…
Dear & The Headlights, with Kinch, Big Light & A B and The Sea @ Bottom of the Hill, 7:30 PM
Phoenix emo-indie act Dear & The Headlights hit Noise Pop before heading out on the Vans Warped Tour, earning both sides of their genre identification.
Port O’Brien, with Odawas, Ezra Furman and The Harpoons & Dame Satan @ Café Du Nord, 8:00 PM
Indie-folk act Port O’Brien hails from across the bay in Oakland, but their sound hews more towards the midwestern alt-coustic of Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes – QRO album review) and M. Ward (QRO album review), who called them his “favorite new band”.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28th:
The Matches, with Dizzy Balloon & Ex-Boyfriends @ Bottom of the Hill, 12:00 Noon
Oakland’s The Matches started with ‘commo-promo’, or commotion promotion, where they would promote their shows with acoustic sets outside of larger local venues, as the crowds to bigger name acts were getting out, but they’ve since graduated to major label with Epitaph (though that contract just finished). Their sound owes a debt to earlier “there’s no there, there” locals like Green Day and Rancid, so expect a lot of kids at this matinee weekend show.
Themselves, with Rainbow Arabia, Yoni Wolf & Boy In Static @ Apple Store San Francisco, 2:00 PM
Two MC’s from the Midwest with a name that’s impossible to Google, Themselves lead off a free show, during the day, on a Saturday – stuff that in your iPod…
Music For Animals, with Aim Low Kid & Audio Out Send @ Benders, 4:00 PM
Noise Pop Happy Hour concludes with winner of San Francisco’s 2005 Battle of the Bands, Music For Animals.
Bob Mould, with Mark Eitzel, Donovan Quinn & Jason Finazzo @ Swedish American Music Hall, 6:30 PM
In a festival littered with significant singer/songwriters, none has been doing it as long as alt-rock icon Bob Mould. From the seminal Hüsker Dü in the eighties through the nineties’ successful Sugar to his solo work and today’s Bob Mould Band (QRO live review), Mould has been crafting great record after great record, most recently with last year’s District Line (QRO review). But he’s also well versed in solo performances (QRO live review), the veteran still able to rock hard and loud, while baring his soul even more.
A.C. Newman, with Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele, Devon Williams & City Light @ The Independent, 7:30 PM
While Newman (QRO photos) is best known for fronting western Canada’s pseudo-super-group The New Pornographers (QRO live review), following last year’s excellent Challengers (QRO review), he returned to the solo ‘A.C’ with Get Guilty (QRO review), a developed, if darker, record with tracks like “The Changeling (Get Guilty)” (QRO video) and “Submarines of Stockholm” (QRO video).
Sholi, with The Dead Trees, Everest & Jake Mann @ Bottom of the Hill, 8:00 PM
From the central Californian university town of Davis, the experimental Sholi moved even further to left to San Francisco, and their self-titled full-length debut comes out only the week before Noise Pop. Openers The Dead Trees (QRO photos) shifted leftwards themselves, from Cambridge to Portland, Oregon, changing their name from Furvis (QRO album review) to boot (but they’ll never tell you why…), while Everest were the band hand-picked by Jeff Tweedy to open for the one-and-only Wilco (QRO live review).
Portugal. The Man, with Japanese Motors, Girls & Love Is Chemicals @ Café Du Nord, 8:00 PM
This West Coast draws from far up its shore with Alaska’s Portugal. The Man. The rambling grunge outfit garnered new fans with 2007 sophomore release Church Mouth (QRO review), and its unhinged alt-rock.
Flosstradamus & N.A.S.A., with Wallpaper @ Mezzanine, 8:00 PM
Chicago-based DJs J2K and Autobot are Flosstradamus (QRO photos), and while they’re best known for touring with such similar techtronica acts as Chromeo, they’ve also shared the stage with indie groups like Matt & Kim (QRO spotlight) on more than one occasion (QRO photos, again on the bill with Matt & Kim). Co-headliner N.A.S.A. is another pair of mash-up artists, Squeak E. Clean & DJ Zegon, but they hail from both coasts (stands for ‘North America/South America’), and will be spinning just a week after the release of their debut, The Spirit of Apollo.
Clues, with Loch Lomond, Harbours & The Red Verse @ The Rickshaw Stop, 8:30 PM
Montreal musicians Alden Penner (of Unicorns) and Brendan Reed (of Arcade Fire – QRO live review) teamed up with a few more locals to form Clues in 2007. So underground they don’t have MySpace or Facebook pages, their debut comes out this spring.
SUNDAY, MARCH 1st:
No Age, with White Circle Crime Club, Infinite Body & Veil Veil Vanish @ Bottom of the Hill, 12:00 Noon
L.A.’s young guitar & drums duo of Randy Randall and Dean Allen Spunt have been blowing up very quickly since last year’s Nouns (QRO review), including a controversial appearance on Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. The punk rock of such tracks as “Eraser” (QRO video), “Teen Creeps” (QRO video) and “Ripped Knees” (QRO video) plays fast, but look out for a young weekend daytime crowd to go nuts (QRO live review).
Les Savy Fav. with The Mae Shi & The Drums @ Mezzanine, 7:00 PM
Noise Pop closes out with a bang thanks to the always-entertaining Les Savy Fav. The Brooklyn band most recently released 2007’s Let’s Stay Friends (QRO review), but are best know for their crazy, wild live shows (QRO live review), with singer Tim Harrington running into the crowd (QRO photo), up against his band members (QRO photo), stripping to his portly frame (QRO photo), and more (QRO photos). Opener Los Angeles’ experimental punk band The Mae Shi have changed members and minds since they started, with three full-lengths, most recently last year’s HLLLYH.
For festival website, go here: http://www.noisepop.com/the-2009-festival